Trinity Eighth Sunday Morning Prayer (25 July 2021) Romans 8:15
St. Paul wrote the epistle of Romans to the early Christians in Rome during his third missionary journey. The epistle was written to the early church that comprised the gentiles and the scattered Jews. Salvation was the biggest issue in the early church during the first century. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, many people started preaching and promoting various theologies. Those teachings did not give clarity. Instead, they confused the people in first century. Jewish beliefs were very different from those of the gentiles. The Jews who accepted Jesus as Christ insisted on following the Old Testament laws and commandments. They believed that we would receive salvation only by following the Old Testament laws and commandments given through Moses. The Jews were very particular about following physical circumcision, the covenant God made with Abraham. However, God expected the Israelites to be circumcised in their heart. The Jews did not give importance to this circumcision of the heart. Paul addressed this issue in his epistle. He explained to the gentiles and the Jews about the real salvation through circumcision of the heart which is salvation through Jesus Christ.
Today’s meditation is based on Romans 8:15. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father”. St. Paul talks about two spirits in this verse: the spirit of bondage and the Spirit of adoption. Let us look back at Abraham’s life to understand these two spirits.
God promised Abraham that he would become the father of nations. The LORD God said his seed will be numerous like the stars in the heaven that cannot be numbered. God promised to give a child to Abraham and Sarah. But Sarah gave her servant maid to Abraham. She wanted to build her house though her Egyptian servant maid. Hagar gave Abraham a son when he was 86 years old. However, God was true to His promise and plan. The promised son Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old. Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. Ishmael would have been around 14 years old then. When Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian mocking Isaac, she was upset and asked Abraham to cast them out. She then said “the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.”
Abraham had two sons. One was by a bondmaid and the other by a freewoman. The son born by the bondwoman Hagar represents the spirit of bondage. The son born by Sarah represents the spirit of adoption or sonship. Paul compared the flesh with the spirit of bondage or slavery and the spirit with freedom or the Spirit of adoption. He also compared Hagar with the present Jerusalem and Sarah with the New Jerusalem which is the kingdom of God. When St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, he compared the bond of slavery with the Old Testament and the promised son with New Testament or new covenant. We can read this in Galatians 4:22–31.
Jews did not accept Jesus as Christ. Their spiritual eyes were not opened. They are waiting for the Messiah to come. They were particular about the Old Testament laws and commandments given through Moses. They did not listen to Jesus or follow the commandments He preached. They were not saved and lived under the bondage of flesh or Old Testament laws. They did not want to be led by the Spirit and be adopted to receive sonship. Referring to this, Paul said in Galatians 4:24, “these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar”. He compared Hagar with the Old Covenant or the spirit of bondage which was led by the flesh. He also compared Sarah with the New Covenant or the Spirit of adoption or sonship which was led by the Holy Spirit.
Paul said in Galatians 4:25, “this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children”. Hagar was a servant maid. Sarah gave her to her husband to build her house. But when Hagar conceived, she despised Sarah, her mistress. Following her example, Ishmael mocked Isaac. Jerusalem means the city of peace. But Jerusalem has faced many wars. When the chosen people did not listen to God, they became slaves and dwelt in the bondage land. Israel got its independence only in 1948. Even today, we hear about war news between Jerusalem and the other countries. Paul said in Galatians 4:29, “as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now”. This verse has two meanings. First, Israel is still fighting for its complete freedom. Second, it is about the separated Israel. We are the separated Israel. We are separated for Christ by the blood of the Lamb of God. We have experienced our second birth which is being born in the spirit. we often read news that Christians are persecuted and troubled for their faith on Jesus. This verse written by Paul is true even today.
The early sin committed by Adam and Eve passed on through the generations. People were under the bondage of sin. The Old Testament laws and commandments could not save people from eternal death. Jesus came to this world and died on the cross. When He shed His blood on the Cross, He made a new covenant with us through the blood of the Lamb of God. He broke the chain of the bondage of sin on the cross. The Old Testament laws and commandments did not require the comforter Holy Spirit. But when we die for our sins and are resurrected with Jesus for righteousness, we must be led by the comforter Holy spirit. There will be no room for flesh. When we are freed from the bondage of sin, we are adopted through Jesus and receive the right to call Him Abba, Father.
In 1 Corinthians 15:50, Paul said that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. We cannot inherit eternal life in the kingdom of heaven if we live our life in flesh. If we do not receive salvation for entering New Jerusalem, we will be under flesh and the bondage of sin.
Today, let us ask ourselves if we are really born of spirit or flesh. Are we free from our bondage and call our saviour as Abba Father? We are all familiar with John 3:16 that says whosoever believeth in God’s only begotten Son Jesus should not perish but have everlasting life. In Romans 10:9&10 Paul said, “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. Believing and confessing Jesus and having trust and faith on Him are vital for salvation.
When God called Abraham, he did not know about the real God because he was an idol worshipper. But Abraham trusted on God. He left his father’s house on a journey to a destination he knew nothing about. Romans 4:3 says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness”. We are born in Christian families and have seen the great works of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ. How is our faith and trust on Jesus? We cannot have faith and believe or trust someone when we do not have a relationship with them. Similarly, we cannot have faith and believe or trust Jesus without having a personal relationship with Him. We can have this relationship only if we have been freed from the spirit of bondage. We should believe that Jesus came as the Passover Lamb and died for our sins. We should also believe that God the Almighty Father raised Him from the dead and the Holy Spirit was sent to guide us to repentance. If we believe Jesus died for our sins and rose again, we will not nail Him to the Cross. Instead, we will endeavour to live our lives following Holy Spirit’s guidance that leads us in the paths of righteousness. I remember the lyrics of a Sunday School song that we used to sing. The song said ‘Jesus tastes like sweet honey in the rock’. Only if I know the taste of honey, I can say it is sweet. And then I can compare the sweetness of honey with Jesus and confess about Him. I can do this only if I have experienced Jesus in my life.
God gave all of us the privilege to receive the Spirit of adoption. When we receive sonship, we become His children and can call Him Abba Father through Jesus. We can call Him Abba Father when we follow His commandments and are saved. Jesus did His part on the cross to redeem us by His precious blood. Have we given up the spirit of bondage and received our sonship in Jesus? Are we calling Him Abba Father and facilitating others to call Him Abba Father? The war between the flesh and the spirit will end on the Lord’s Day. Those who are saved will be there with Jesus and calling Him Abba Father for ever. I pray we are among that multitude calling Him Abba Father. Amen!